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Monday, 10 September 2018
Page: 122


Ms SHARKIE (Mayo) (12:05): I'm very pleased to speak on this motion, but it is a very sad point to discuss. The leading cause of death for young Australians aged 16 to 24 is not car accidents, it's not alcohol-fuelled violence and it's not cancer; it is suicide. For every death, every completed suicide that occurs, there are 200 young people who either attempt or contemplate suicide. In my community, we have had townships that have been rocked by suicide. There is a ripple effect from the loss of so many lives. It causes such immeasurable loss for families, for parents—I don't know how they can go on—for the network of friends, for the local school, for workplaces, for our whole community. We all grieve the loss of lives gone far too soon.

In light of those statistics, I was relieved to hear the Minister for Health announce the government is committed to making the mental health of young Australians a priority. With that commitment in mind, I want to read one of the key findings from a recent Mission Australia report into the mental health of young people in regional and remote Australia. Mission Australia said:

Mental health knows no geographical … boundaries; however, the provision of services does.

We know that young Australians are suffering in silence, both in townships and in the country. We know it makes no difference where you live. However, the regional divide does make all the difference with respect to the opportunity for young people to manage those mental health issues and to seek support and get access to services. We know that, sadly, the risk of suicide increases as the distance from the major cities increases. Regional Australians like my constituents on the southern Fleurieu are battling long waiting lists, high costs of services and a frustrating lack of public transport. Their isolation exacerbates this issue. It is for these reasons that I am campaigning for a permanent headspace centre at Victor Harbour, and this report makes it clear that securing this service is absolutely critical.

In July this year I joined my community for a youth mental health forum in Victor Harbor. Across the three Fleurieu councils of Alexandrina, Victor Harbor and Yankalilla, we are home to more than 6,200 young people aged between 10 and 24. What was clear from the discussions was that the young people in the area desperately need the same services as their metropolitan counterparts. A few hours of service a week, an email address or a telephone number just don't cut it—it's not the same. We need face-to-face services and a headspace centre of our own, like the one that was recently opened in Mount Barker.

Securing a shopfront in Mount Barker took months of campaigning by our community, which I was very pleased to lead. It was eventually opened in December 2017, but the demand was so great that, even then, as soon as it opened there was an instant backlog of clients, and every day, some nine months later, the demand still shows no sign of abatement. For example, the youth complex care program has supported 682 clients in the Mount Barker office and a further 250 young people through outreach on the south coast. Even those in the complex care program, where needs are most acute, must still wait at least two to three weeks before they can see a clinician. Mental health knows no boundaries, but it would seem that access to affordable and age-appropriate mental health services does depend on your postcode, and for young people living on the Fleurieu access is incredibly difficult. This is just not good enough.

If the Morrison government is serious about the mental health of young people in the regions, it needs to commit to funding affordable and appropriate face-to-face services in the regions. The rollout of headspace services is not complete. We cannot say we have ticked this off. Many young people right across Australia are still desperately in need of face-to-face services. As I said, a phone call is simply not enough. We have a duty to support our young people in Australia, to provide them with the services and skills they need to equip them to become happy and productive members of our community. With the right supports for all young people, no matter their postcode, I believe our young Australians have the great capacity to live successful and fulfilling lives.